“We Are Very Scared”: Bilkis Bano’s Husband On Release Of 11 Convicts

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New Delhi:

The family of Bilkis Bano — the woman gangraped during the 2002 Gujarat riots — are terrified after the Gujarat government released the 11 rapists on Monday. “The Supreme Court, the Bombay High Court gave orders and still… In just one move, our fight of 18 years is over. We are scared. We weren’t informed about the release,” Bilkis Bano’s husband Yakub Rasul told LOKJANTA STAFF in an exclusive interview.

The rapists had walked free on Independence Day. Cellphone videos circulated later on social media showed them being feted with sweets and garlands.  

A committee formed by the government had come to a unanimous decision in favour of remission, following the state’s own policy of 1992. The matter had passed to the state after one of the convicts approached the Supreme Court. The court had asked the state to look into the issue.

Asked if they are going to seek issue a legal challenge, Mr Rasul said, “We are still in shock and don’t know whether we’ll question it”. “We have no legal papers and don’t know much right now. We are still in shock. What happened with us is complete injustice,” he added.

The family, he confirmed, was not informed about the release. “We had no idea, we got to know about it from the local media. We learnt at the last moment,” he said.

Asked if they are concerned about their safety now that the rapists are out, and whether they will move from their current home, Yakub Rasul said, “We can’t say anything whether we’ll move to another place or not”.

Bilkis Bano saw seven members of her family — including her little daughter — murdered in March 2002 as violence spiralled after a compartment of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire in Godhra, killing 59 people.

The woman, who was five months’ pregnant, was gangraped.

In 2008, a special court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 men to life term. The sentence was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
Today, Bilkis Bano also issued a statement that expressed her feelings of deep hurt and betrayal.

“How can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice,” her statement read.

“My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts,” she added.

In the statement, she has appealed to the Gujarat government for a roll-back.

“No one enquired about my safety and well-being, before taking such a big and unjust decision… Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe,” the statement read.

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